The traditional image people have of street graffiti is of exaggerated, fierce visuals. In fact, the street graffiti of the 21st century has long been the driving factor of youth-oriented boutique fashion, and has even been sold at auction! Graffiti brings a roiling youthful dynamism to dull walls and to the city style.
The Ximending (西門町) area is Taipei’s most vigorous and electric youth-culture district. Lane 96, Kunming Street (昆明街96巷), which brims with trendy youth-clothing shops, is popularly known as “American Street” (美國街). Taiwan’s innovative homegrown street graffiti creativity is in full bloom here – on the walls along the lanes, on theshops’ roll-down metal doors, and on the small lane-side electric boxes.
At the bottom of the alley is Taipei Cinema Park (台北市電影主題公園), encompassing just over 6,600 square meters, dedicated to the development of the cultural arts and to youth. The park serves as a legal, safe stage for graffiti artists to showcase their creations. This is a place where youth can gather to the sound of low, clamorous voices and, wielding spray cans with free rein, loudlyproclaim “I exist!” to the world.
Ximending’s Cinema Park – Wide-Open Graffiti Creation
The driving force behind this fine project is the Taipei Youth Art Center. Here’s how many of the works on American Street came to be: The center took proposals for the graffiti artists’ work to local landlords, and told them that if they would provide the wall space, the artworks would be painted for free. Later, the Department of Cultural Affairs and the Center began collaborating on the hosting of special activities such as competitions for international graffiti artists and for rappers and street dancers. These events drew great streams of people to Ximending, and today, with cinema and other themes integrated with the graffiti, and with the constant renewal of artistic presentations, this area has become a “Photo Op” andsightseeing “must-see.”
In addition, delve into the culturally kinetic Cinema Street (電影街) and you’ll discover many stimulating expressions of graffiti art. Citymarx (城市記號創意行銷工作室), a creative-marketing studio, was formed by a group of partners with apassion for street culture.
The studio not only stages graffiti-art events and competitions, but in recent years has also actively pursued access to large-scale wall spaces for artwork. One example is an 8-storey work on a wall at Ximending’s in89 Cinemax (in89 豪華數位影城), the largest in Taiwan’s history – co-created by a group of seven graffiti artists that includes Candy Bird and DEBE. A student surnamed Chen, meeting here with friends to see a movie, says that he and his fellow students feel these innovative and interesting graffiti walls are very trendy, and perfectly embody the culture of today’syoung generation.
Riverside Park Dike Walls – Graffiti Creativity ShowcaseArea
Happiness is enjoying great graffiti art while feeling the breeze! In September 2015, the city’s Hydraulic Engineering Office (水利處) established dedicated “Graffiti Areas” at dike-wall locations in five riverside parks. The art in each area is completely redone every four months. The opentheme graffiti works can be viewed at Yingfeng Riverside Park (迎風河濱公園) in Songshan District, Meiti Riverside Park (美堤河濱公園) in Zhongshan District, Bailing Riverside Park North (百齡右岸河濱公園) in Shilin District, and in both Fuhe Riverside Park (福和河濱公園) and Jingmei Riverside Park (景美河濱公園) in Wenshan District. Yingfeng is the largest, at just over 1,300 square meters; the others range from 198to 780.
Chifeng Street – From RoughBlacksmiths to Art
Chifeng Street (赤峰街), once renowned as “Blacksmith Street” has morphed into a place with a vivid hipster ambience. The “Street Fun, Fun Street – MOCA X Community Art Festival” (街大歡囍 台北當代藝術館╳赤峰街區藝術展), staged in the past two years, has added great warmth to the local community. Numerous Taiwan illustrators and contemporary-art creators have transformed their observations of Chifeng’s neighborhood life into wall paintings, interactive installations, relayphotography works, public art, and even live onthe-spot theatre.
Walking Chifeng Street, local citizens and travelers are given a baptism of art! A number of locations showcasing graffiti-art and the city’s culture were used in the recent film The Mad King of Taipei (西城童話). Director Yeh Tien- Lun (葉天倫) says graffiti culture is not just an art form, it’s a declaration of ideas, and shows off a city’s wide-ranging cultural charms. Graffiti is like the low roar of clamoring youthful voices, and inspires the traditional roiling spirit of Taipei’s old city area, giving voice to artistic creators and adding morestories to the city’s narrative.
Article__Ye Ya-wei Photos__Good Image Co., MOCA Taipei